Florida is home to lots of alligators, and there’s probably no better place to see your fill of them in one day than at Gatorland.
Gatorland was Orlando’s first large attraction, starting way back in 1949 when Disney and Universal hadn’t even thought of using the region for theme parks. Back then Seminole Indians would wrestle the gators for tourists, and the classic gator jaws at the park’s entrance (top photo) were photographed tens of thousands of times. Because of the extensive development of the Orlando region, there are many fewer gators around today but there’s still lots of them in the state.
Gatorland is a family-run, family -oriented place that reminded me a little of Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park , California, except with alligators as the theme instead of Peanuts characters. There are three main shows you can see here, all quite a bit of fun:
1) Gator Jumparoo show: Hosted by a few “yahoos” from the south (actually actor-employees), this is where you’ll see alligators jump and compete for chicken hung above the water line.
2) Gator Wrestling Show: Trainer pulls a 100-150 lb gator from the water and “wrestles” it (gain control of it — no harm done). For a few extra dollars, used to help support all the food for these animals, anyone can hop on the back of a gator for a chance to have your photo taken with them. It’s safe – the trainers are at hand and a thick rubber band keeps the jaws closed.
3) UpClose Encounters: Included tarantulas, and three snakes, and unsuspecting volunteers from the audience.
There’s a special enclosure for white alligators — either albinos (have pink eyes and no pigment) or leucistic (blue-eyed with no pigment)
A nature swano walk takes you into the heart of a pristine Florida swamp, where you have the opportunity to see lots of birds, maybe some turtles, snakes, and even wild alligators. It’s a pleasant walk with lots of cypress trees and ferns, and of course, epiphytes (air plants growing on other plants).
The area has a petting zoo, a place you can feed the gators, a zip line and a quaint train ride around the park. There’s exhibits featuring parrots and macaws, white tail deer, emus, saltwater crocodiles, If you’re into high adventure, a popular zipline let’s you zip over a “gator breeding swamp”, home to 100 alligators. And there’s lots more to keep you entertained and you can easily spend the entire day exploring the park.
I enjoyed our day at Gatorland. Fun in an old-fashioned kind of way.